Tuesday Reads

Louise Williams Jackson, Woman Reading a Book on a Sofa

Good Morning!!

For months now, we’ve been talking about the society-wide depression and anxiety that Trump’s “presidency” has caused. Speaking for myself, I managed to stay glued to the news for quite a long time, but lately I’ve tried to protect myself by stepping back as much as possible and finding ways to nourish my psyche in order to avoid falling into despair over what is happening to this country.

I’ve still paid close attention to the damage Trump is doing, and I’ve found that I can do that without watching cable TV constantly and reading every horrific article I encounter. I’m still experiencing “Trump depression” though and I know I’m not alone.

In light of that, I want to begin this post by highlighting this helpful article by Paul Rosenberg at Salon: The Trump depression (and we don’t mean the economy): Key symptom of autocratic regimes. It’s quite long, but I hope you’ll go read the entire thing. Some excerpts:

Reviewing “Trump’s Wacky, Angry, and Extreme August” on Twitter, the New Yorker’s Susan Glasser said the experience “was exhausting, a dark journey to a nasty and contentious place.” But that’s hardly news: it’s a place we live in every day. We try to turn the volume down and ignore it, and that may work for a while. But it won’t last. It can’t. It’s getting worse, and we can all see where we’re headed.

We know who Donald Trump admires, who he wants to be like — “president for life” as he keeps on telling us — and the countries they rule. Even as Trump insulted Americans and allies with abandon, Glasser noted, he found time to praise North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

America is nowhere near as bad as Brazil or China, much less North Korea. But our democracy is eroding significantly. Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) tracks hundreds of attributes of democracy for 202 countries, spanning more than two centuries. Its 2019 report found that “24 countries are now severely affected by what is established as a ‘third wave of autocratization,'” an erosion of democratic rights “that has slowly gained momentum since the mid 1990s. … Among them are populous countries such as Brazil, India and the United States.”

If Trump has his way — demolishing all restraints on his power — things will only get much worse, with the journey Glasser took as a tour book guide of what’s to come. And people are feeling it in their bones.

By Keith Gantos ( EUA 1957) óleo sobre madeira

I think we all acknowledge at this point that Trump wants to be a dictator in the mold of Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un. He has managed to get rid of the so-called “adults in the room” and surround himself with sycophants, yes men, and acting cabinet members whose jobs are subject to his whims. On the “Trump depression,” Rosenberg quotes “physician and scholar” Frederick Burkle.

“In America under Trump there is a population-based depression taking hold. It is a very subtle, smoldering, pervasive and serious condition that people in autocratic countries chronically live with,” physician and scholar Frederick “Skip” Burkle told me in a recent interview. Burkle has any number of academic credentials: He was founding director of the Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance at the University of Hawaii, and currently serves in advisory or research capacities at the Harvard School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University Medical Institutes, the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington and elsewhere.

It was Burkle who first described Trump as a schoolyard bully to me, as I described in July. His own first childhood encounter with a bully taught him that such people were driven by “not just the violence and intimidation, but the narcissist’s hallmark sense of impunity, backed up by effortless deceit, blame-shifting, and manipulation,” as I expressed it.

“When I did see young adults with sociopathy and narcissism, the depression among their caretaker parents was pervasive,” Burkle told me in our recent conversation. “They control the agenda and suck all the oxygen out of the room every day. They also sap all the energy out of their caretaker parents and staff later in life, and are quick to blame others for the consequences.” It’s not accidental, he observed, that Trump underlings like Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn are the ones convicted of crimes.

Meanwhile, the wider public, overwhelmed by the Trumpian chaos, becomes depressed, disoriented and exhausted, as Burkle puts it.

Woman Reading In Bath by Chen Bolen

Rosenberg cites several other experts, including Elizabeth Mika who wrote a chapter in the book The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump.

When I reached out to Mika…, she cited two concepts as particularly important for “understanding our sociopolitical situation” — both what’s driving the depression Burkle speaks of, and what points toward the way out.

“The first one is pathocracy,” Mika said. “which is the rule of pathological characters — specifically, people with entirely absent or severely compromised conscience — who, because of their character defect, are devoted pretty much exclusively to the pursuit of power by any means possible.”

Pathocracies spread into general populace like cancer, taking over and destroying organs of social and political life, along with individual human beings. People living under pathocracies become demoralized and despondent. Depression and despair, along with various social pathologies, are predictable consequences of being forced to adjust to immoral and inhumane socio-political systems based on lies and exploitation.

Yet “just as pathocracy spreads in a populace, so does a healthy resistance to it,” she explained.

Awakening to the reality of pathocracy, mobilizing against it and dismantling it, is a process of positive disintegration — the second concept I mentioned at the start — during which individuals come to realize the importance of higher values, and start implementing them, little by little, in their daily lives.

The way out is not a return to normalcy, since as Mika noted above, “The tyrant shows up in a society that is already weakened by disorder.”

I know I’ve quoted a lot, but there’s much more to read at the link. I hope you’ll check it out.

Fyffe Christie (1918-1979) – The artist’s wife reading (1953)

I don’t know why this story on Russian spying at Yahoo News isn’t getting more attention: Exclusive: Russia carried out a ‘stunning’ breach of FBI communications system, escalating the spy game on U.S. soil, by Zach Dorfman, Jenna McLaughlin and Sean D. Naylor.

On Dec. 29, 2016, the Obama administration announced that it was giving nearly three dozen Russian diplomats just 72 hours to leave the United States and was seizing two rural East Coast estates owned by the Russian government. As the Russians burned papers and scrambled to pack their bags, the Kremlin protested the treatment of its diplomats, and denied that those compounds — sometimes known as the “dachas” — were anything more than vacation spots for their personnel.

The Obama administration’s public rationale for the expulsions and closures — the harshest U.S. diplomatic reprisals taken against Russia in several decades — was to retaliate for Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. But there was another critical, and secret, reason why those locations and diplomats were targeted.

Both compounds, and at least some of the expelled diplomats, played key roles in a brazen Russian counterintelligence operation that stretched from the Bay Area to the heart of the nation’s capital, according to former U.S. officials. The operation, which targeted FBI communications, hampered the bureau’s ability to track Russian spies on U.S. soil at a time of increasing tension with Moscow, forced the FBI and CIA to cease contact with some of their Russian assets, and prompted tighter security procedures at key U.S. national security facilities in the Washington area and elsewhere, according to former U.S. officials. It even raised concerns among some U.S. officials about a Russian mole within the U.S. intelligence community.

It appears that Russian interference in our elections was only the tip of the iceberg.

“It was a very broad effort to try and penetrate our most sensitive operations,” said a former senior CIA official.

Girl reading a book, (after 1930) by Bertold Piotr Oczko born 1910 in Bielsko, Poland died 1943 in Krakau, Poland

American officials discovered that the Russians had dramatically improved their ability to decrypt certain types of secure communications and had successfully tracked devices used by elite FBI surveillance teams. Officials also feared that the Russians may have devised other ways to monitor U.S. intelligence communications, including hacking into computers not connected to the internet. Senior FBI and CIA officials briefed congressional leaders on these issues as part of a wide-ranging examination on Capitol Hill of U.S. counterintelligence vulnerabilities.

These compromises, the full gravity of which became clear to U.S. officials in 2012, gave Russian spies in American cities including Washington, New York and San Francisco key insights into the location of undercover FBI surveillance teams, and likely the actual substance of FBI communications, according to former officials. They provided the Russians opportunities to potentially shake off FBI surveillance and communicate with sensitive human sources, check on remote recording devices and even gather intelligence on their FBI pursuers, the former officials said.

“When we found out about this, the light bulb went on — that this could be why we haven’t seen [certain types of] activity” from known Russian spies in the United States, said a former senior intelligence official.

The compromise of FBI systems occurred not long after the White House’s 2010 decision to arrest and expose a group of “illegals” – Russian operatives embedded in American society under deep non-official cover – and reflected a resurgence of Russian espionage. Just a few months after the illegals pleaded guilty in July 2010, the FBI opened a new investigation into a group of New York-based undercover Russian intelligence officers. These Russian spies, the FBI discovered, were attempting to recruit a ring of U.S. assets — including Carter Page, an American businessman who would later act as an unpaid foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Once again, I’ve quoted a great deal, but it’s a very long piece that is both interesting and alarming.

A lady reading a book Ernst Liebermann born May 8, 1869 in Langemuss (Meiningen), Germany

This next story is horrific, and once again it began under Obama. The Washington Post: U.S. officials knew bomb-sniffing dogs were dying from neglect in Jordan. They sent more.

The State Department sent dozens of highly skilled explosive-detection dogs to Jordan, even after the agency assessed a high degree of mistreatment and failure to care for the animals in 2016, according to an inspector general report concluded last week. It ultimately led to their early deaths and crushed their spirits so brutally that the dogs “lost the will to work,” the report says.

At least 10 dogs provided to Jordan died of “various medical problems” out of at least 100 canines sent there between 2008 and 2016, the report found, and surviving dogs were starved in kennels smeared with feces and dirt. Dogs were overworked in the desert, suffered hip dysplasia and other conditions. Engorged ticks ringed their ears.

Zoe, [a] Belgian Malinois, died of heat stroke on the Syrian border in 2017, less than a year after her arrival. Veterinarians told investigators that such deaths are not accidental and pointed to negligence on the part of Jordanian handlers.

The report reveals an alarming and fast collapse of dogs that arrived healthy and strong in Jordan, only to be fighting for their lives in a matter of months….

Athena, a 2-year old Belgian Malinois, was found starved in Jordan by U.S. dog handling officials and evacuated to the United States for recovery.

Photos in Jordan show Athena’s malnourished body. Feces covered her kennel floor, her water bowl bone-dry. The State Department had two full-time dog handling mentors on the ground “during the entire time” Athena was in Jordan, the report found, but her condition did not set off any alarms until a site visit in April 2018.

By then, the State Department knew for two years — after an April 2016 site visit — that Jordan was unable to adequately care for and protect dogs carrying out dirty, hot and dangerous work to find explosives in violent places like the Syrian border.

Yet at least 60 dogs arrived in six waves through 2018 after the assessment, the report found

As the Brits say, bloody hell. This is intolerable!

Woman Reading, by Lex Veen

More reads, links only.

Vanity Fair: “They Played It Up Pretty Big”: Turmoil Engulfs The Times Over The Kavanaugh Debacle.

Mimi Rocah at USA Today: Confirmed: Powerful men ignored women in short-circuited Brett Kavanaugh investigation.

Dahlia Lithwick at Slate: The New Kavanaugh Reporting Shows How Far Trump’s Control Goes.

Vox: Susan Collins is in the political fight of her life, and Brett Kavanaugh is a huge factor.

The Washington Post: Pentagon urges restraint after strikes on Saudi oil facilities.

Washington Post Editorial Board: Trump has dug himself into a hole with Iran.

Politico: Trump’s deference to Saudi Arabia infuriates much of D.C.

Buzzfeed News: Donald Trump Keeps Telling World Leaders The Same Bizarre Story About Kim Jong Un.

Gabriel Sherman at Vanity Fair: “Trump is Annoyed Pence Hasn’t Been Defending Him More”: Is Trump’s Long-Suffering V.P. in Danger of Getting Bounced?

Politico: Air Force crews stayed at Trump’s Turnberry resort for days at a time.

So . . . what stories are you following today?


42 Comments on “Tuesday Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

  2. bostonboomer says:

    • NW Luna says:

      She was nearly synonymous with NPR news.

      • bostonboomer says:

        That’s a nice story about all the women who helped build NPR. They paid less, so women ended up being prominent. There are some old photos too.

    • dakinikat says:

      She had complications from breast cancer … here’s from her home town “used to be” newspaper

      • NW Luna says:

        She was treated for breast cancer in 2002 and later pronounced “cured” — no recurrence at 5 years. I hate it when people assume after 5 yrs you are cancer-free. Breast cancer recurrence risk does not go down after 5 years for some forms. We need more research into breast cancer recurrence and metastasis.

    • RonStill4Hills says:

      This make me really sad.

  3. bostonboomer says:

  4. bostonboomer says:

  5. NW Luna says:

    The cruelly mistreated dogs — heartbreaking.

  6. NW Luna says:

    …the society-wide depression and anxiety that Trump’s “presidency” has caused.

    It’s so very draining, and keeps getting worse. We’re anxious and worried about the current conditions but also the future. We know it will take decades to undo the damage he’s done to the judiciary system with appointments of radical right-wing judges. Then there’s the environmental degradation, the misery from inadequate healthcare, the wreckage of diplomacy, the corruption and the cruelty. Going to read the rest of that article now.

  7. Pat Johnson says:

    I remind myself everyday that I simply cannot take anymore.

    Then curiosity – and probably my intense interest in hoping that “today’s the day” – drives me back.

    Watching the Republicans try to short circuit this hearing is causing me such anxiety. How can these people get away with this lawlessness?

  8. dakinikat says:

  9. dakinikat says:

    • dakinikat says:

      I couldn’t watch too much of this … rethugs are calling Dems the party of impeachment and some asshole from Texas said the Mueller report cleared Trump of everything … wtf with this guy? He’s a fucking traitor to his oath

      • bostonboomer says:

        It doesn’t seem as if the Dems were very well prepared. They had to know this would happen.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Apparently the questioning by staff counsel Barry Berke was outstanding. I wish I had seen it.

  10. bostonboomer says:

  11. dakinikat says:

    • NW Luna says:

      Buttigieg stable

      Oh for crying out loud! Well, at least he’s half of Kamala’s ranking. Beto really flamed out, didn’t he?

  12. dakinikat says:

  13. dakinikat says:

    Well, this is not the type of decision an delusional Orange Dotard should be making

  14. bostonboomer says:

    Another great journalist has left us.

  15. NW Luna says:

    Uh …. dakinikat, care to comment?

    • quixote says:

      Well, I’m sure dakini will have more, but this is what the article said at the end:

      “The Fed won’t admit this,” Cabana said, “but it looks and smells an awful lot like the monetary authority is financing the fiscal authority.”

      In other words trillion dollar tax cuts -> deficits cause perturbations in the money supply and the Fed is plugging the dike so that substantive repairs, aka raising taxes back up on corporations, don’t need to be made. Yet.

      • dakinikat says:

        yup … that would be it ….

      • dakinikat says:

        That’s basically correct. Liquidity shortage is what started the entire meltdown in 2006 too …

        https://www.barrons.com/articles/federal-reserve-may-cut-interest-rates-it-could-do-a-lot-more-51568826968

        To be sure, the Fed can’t do much about the short-term causes of the market’s dislocation. Nearly $80 billion of new Treasuries hit the market Monday, just as companies and people were withdrawing cash to pay their third-quarter taxes. Some people have speculated that the weekend’s 13% jump in oil prices might have contributed by causing some governments to hoard dollars (a main currency in energy markets) in their bank accounts instead of circulating them like normal.

        More important, however, are broader trends in money markets that could keep cash relatively scarce. The Fed does have some say over those.

        First, banks have less extra cash on their balance sheets than they did a few years ago, in part because the Fed has reduced the size of its bondholdings.

        During the financial crisis, the Fed bought bonds from banks in its so-called quantitative-easing effort, which meant it held securities on its balance sheet and the banks held corresponding amounts of cash. But as the U.S. economic recovery picked up in 2017, the central bank decided to allow the bonds on its balance sheet to mature instead of buying new ones at auction.

        That had the effect of draining cash from the system. The Fed’s balance sheet is 15% smaller than it was at the start of 2018, New York Fed data show.

        all this uncertainty Trump’s policies are causing is causing cash in dollars hoarding including around the world

        • NW Luna says:

          Thanks for the explanation. My understanding of economics is poor, and I was puzzling over monetary authority v. fiscal authority.

  16. NW Luna says:

    And … another departure. Maybe he told Trump he couldn’t do something illegal.